Historical Origins of Israel
No other nation of Israel's size is as well-known throughout the world or as influential in its relations with other countries. During the early days of the state, a delegation from the U.S. Congress visited the country and concluded, "What Israel needs is a good mayor and a good sheriff." Israel is a very small country in both area and population. Its area of nearly 8,000 square miles (about 28,000 square kilometers) makes Israel similar in size to New Jersey, Slovenia, Wales, or El Salvador; it is considerably smaller than countries like Belgium and is half the size of the Netherlands or Denmark. A person driving 55 miles an hour could cross Israel from Metula in the north to Eilat in the south in about four hours and could travel the width from Netanya on the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan River in less than an hour. Among its Middle East regional neighbors, Israel is larger than Lebanon, Qatar, and Kuwait. Jordan is almost five times larger than Israel, however; Syria is nine times as large, Iraq is twenty times as large, Turkey is forty times as large, Egypt is fifty times as large, Iran is eighty times as large, and Saudi Arabia is over one hundred times as large.
With a population of over 5.3 million in 1994, Israel has fewer or the same number of people as at least thirty-five of the world's largest cities, including London, Paris, Moscow, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Three Middle Eastern cities--Cairo, Teheran, and Istanbul--have up to twice the number of inhabitants as Israel. Its population equals 15 percent of California's, or a little under 2 percent of that of the United States. Iraq and Iran, two of Israel's declared regional enemies, have about four and twelve